Saturday, April 18, 2009

Some people are too dumb to live.

HOBOKEN, N.J. – Police say a man posing as a waiter collected $186 in cash from diners at two restaurants in New Jersey and walked out with the money in his pocket. Diners described the bogus waiter as a spikey-haired 20-something wearing a dark blue or black button-down shirt, yellow tie and khaki pants. Police say he approached two women dining at Hobson's Choice in Hoboken, N.J. around 7:20 p.m. on Thursday. He asked if they needed anything else before paying. They said no and handed him $90 in cash. About two hours later he approached three women dining at Margherita's Pizza and Cafe. He asked if they were ready to pay, took $96 and never returned with their change.
Wouldn't you ask - "Are you my waiter?"

Friday, April 17, 2009

This tribute is outta here!

This isn't going to be a popular opinion, but I think the Phillies are overdoing it a little with the Harry Kalas tributes. A little bit. I guess they don't want to make a mistake by not doing enough, but I think the extent of the things that are going on between tonight and tomorrow are a little too much. Here's a partial list:
  • Throughout the season, Kalas' renowned "Outta here!" home run call will be played over the PA system after every Phillies home run at Citizens Bank Park
  • Players, coaches and manager Charlie Manuel will wear an HK patch on their uniforms.
  • A billboard honoring Kalas will be displayed on the outfield wall.
  • The TV broadcast booth, where Kalas broadcast since the Bank opened in 2004, will be named the Harry Kalas Broadcast Booth: "That ball's outta here!"
  • In the first half-inning of Friday's broadcast on Comcast Network Philadelphia, there will be no commentary.
  • During the seventh-inning stretch Friday, a video of Kalas singing "High Hopes" will be shown on PhanaVision. Fans will be encouraged to sing along.
  • The ceremonial first balls will be thrown out by Harry's sons Todd, Brad and Kane.
  • There will be a moment of silence before Kane sings the national anthem.
  • A video of Harry's career will be aired on PhanaVision.
  • Fans will receive an 8" x10" color photo of Kalas.
  • Beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, on a first come, first served basis, fans will have the opportunity to pay their respects on the field as they pass by Kalas' casket behind home plate. Fans will walk by the casket until approximately 12:45 p.m., when everybody will be directed to seats. Beginning at approximately 1 p.m., current and former players, broadcasters, front-office employees, friends and family members will pay their final respects before the on-field tribute begins at 1:30 p.m.
  • Kalas' signature will be displayed on the field during the seven-game homestand, beginning Friday.
  • A black drape will appear in front of the Phillies' radio and TV booths.
  • The Phillies flag in Ashburn Alley will be hung at half-mast.

Sheesh. By the way, the expression "first come, first served" probably should never be used when discussing a funeral or viewing. I'm just saying.

It's partly because of my feelings about the way we deal with death. I loved Harry too, but we tend to do more after death than we do in life, and I find that odd, to the extent that I think Harry would be embarassed by it all.

And, I wouldn't want to be the person who is going to have to cut the line off at the deadline tomorrow. I'm thinking that there will be more mourners than time and somebody is going to have to tell them they can't go in. They say they're expecting about 200,000 people - I think it will be more - and I wonder how quickly they're going to want to whiz past the casket (probably an empty box - would they have an open casket?) and be ushered out of the ballpark before paying their respects, whatever that means.

There will undoubtedly be helicopters providing aerial views, a couple of local radio stations will be broadcasting live (pun) from the event and Comcast will be televising the whole affair.

All for what, exactly? To salve the feelings of the living, who would be better served staying at home in quiet contemplation over the entertainment provided by Harry during his life, which we never made such a fuss over - which I find odd. Whatever happened to "rest in peace?"

I told you it wouldn't be a popular opinion.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Call me when you're finished reading this.

Was today "National Talk on Your Cell Phone While Driving Day" and I missed it? Somebody needs to let me know about these things so I can celebrate along with the rest of the world. Seriously, the unenforceable law we have in New Jersey that bans cell phone use while driving seemed to have died a merciful death today, as I saw at least 10 percent of the drivers yakking on my drive home - including one jackass who talked for a full ten minutes in my rear-view mirror.
HERE'S A HINT FOR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT: Take the law off the books because you clearly have lost the handle. People talk with one eye on the road, an ear to the phone and the other eye looking for your police cars. It ain't working.
For those of you who have teenage drivers licensed in the state, you're about to encounter another little dose from Big Brother. Your kids are going to be issued little decals that identify them as Teen Drivers because some kid named Kyleigh was killed by a teen aged driver a while ago. I am left to wonder how a decal on an auto will improve safety. It strikes me as assuming guilt before innocence and yet another knee-jerk law pushed through with a name on it - "Kyleigh's Law" - that is supposed to make us think that the state has our best interests at heart. What it does mostly, is make criminals out of people before they've committed a crime and creates another class of drivers who have to navigate with one eye on the road and the other over their shoulder. They will also be banned from using hands-free cell phones while driving, which merely confuses teenagers who have probably seen their parents talking on the phone while driving.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A show about nothing.

GEORGE: I think I can sum up the show for you with one word: Nothing.
RUSSELL: Nothing?
GEORGE: Nothing.
RUSSELL: What does that mean?
GEORGE: The show is about nothing.
JERRY: (to George) Well, it's not about nothing.
GEORGE: (to Jerry) No, it's about nothing.
JERRY: Well, maybe in philosophy. But, even nothing is something
I didn't want to draw any more attention to it than necessary, but now that it's over I can write about it.
The National Football League and their evil stepchild, The NFL Network made a 2-hour TV show out of the release of the 2009 NFL schedule. Seriously. It made me think of the exchange in the Seinfeld episode called "The Pitch" where George is pitching the idea of a show about nothing to NBC:
GEORGE: What'd you do today?
NFL Network: We released the schedule of our games.
GEORGE: There's a show! That's a show!
NFL Network: How is that a show? It's just a list of games.
GEORGE: Oh, it's a show, baby. People love that stuff. Win-loss-win-win ... They eat it up. Here's another idea. What happens when those guys get ready for the draft?
NFL Network: You mean The Combine? They run around in circles, catch balls and lift weights, and there's a lot of standing around. Sometimes they take their shirts off. Some of the linemen have man-boobs.
GEORGE: That's a show! In fact, we can make that a two-day deal. Almost 48 hours of constant programming.
NFL Network: Really? Of guys exercising, standing around and chasing themselves around a field?
GEORGE: Absolutely. And people will watch it.
NFL Network: Why?
GEORGE: Because it's on television. OK, you're not nuts about that - how about this? Your draft. You draft players every year, right? What happens?
NFL Network: Well, somebody picks a player ...
GEORGE: Can we see them picking the player?
NFL Network: No. Nobody can see them.
GEORGE: Perfect. Go on.
NFL Network: Well, they pick a player. It usually takes about fifteen minutes - and then, they um ... hand a piece of paper to ... another guy and he, um - reads the name over a microphone.
GEORGE: Great! That's a show! I'm smelling another two-day deal here.
NFL Network: Well, sometimes we follow a guy around for a couple of hours because we think he's going to be drafted. And if he isn't, he's really embarassed and we wind up putting him in a separate room and waiting some more.
GEORGE: This is amazing! And not only that - but we'll put it on cable and people will pay for it. I'm thinking five bucks a month!
NFL Network: Now, I think you've lost your mind. Can't they just read it in the newspaper the next morning?
GEORGE: Newspapers? Aaaah! Get Comcast on the phone!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Finding out that I can hate an inanimate object.

JERRY: Hey, I've been trying to jam stuff in the box like you told me, but sometimes it says, like, "Photographs - Do not bend".
NEWMAN: (Sarcastically) Do not bend! (Laughs evilly) Just crease, crumple, cram ... you'll do fine

Sometimes when I go shopping, I forget my canvas bags, and you know how much I love my canvas bags. In those instances, I am forced to use the ... plastic. The cashier wants to use two, but I refuse, (pun) instead choosing to cram all of my items into one measly bag. She quizzed me on my distaste for waste:

ME: I forgot my canvas, and I can't stand these things. Don't get me started.
CASHIER: Go ahead, start.
ME: It won't be pretty, I assure you. It gets under my skin to see people wandering out of here with a cart-full of these bags.
CASHIER: I don't like them either, but people recycle them.
ME: They do?
CASHIER: Yes, there's a container outside and it's always full.
(ME THINKING: Maybe that's because they never empty it.)
ME TALKING: That really shouldn't be an option. I just don't like looking at them.
Sometimes, I'll spend another 99 cents and buy a new one. Since I already have ten of them, that habit needs to die a merciful death - like the plastic bag. And I wandered out with a plastic bag screaming at the seams, stuffed with cat food, dishwasher tablets and canned veggies.
Thank you, bag. I hate your petroleum-manufacured, landfill filling, brightly colored, wrinkly-noisy, seam-splitting guts.

When life intrudes.

Baseball is one of those things that is supposed to take us away from the drudgery of everyday life. That's true, except when some real-life event intrudes on the game and makes us think. Then, life and sports intersect and that's almost never good.
There was the earthquake that stopped the 1989 World Series and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 that stopped the game for a few days - among others. Generally, it's the death of an icon or some tragedy. Good things make us appreciate the game while bad things make us feel as though the game isn't as important as it is on most days.
Regular readers know I'm a Phillies season ticket holder and a lover of baseball. This season, I paid for the MLB package from Comcast so that I could watch any game. If I'm not watching the Phillies I'll tune in the Orioles, but it's nice to be able to tune into any game.
When the news of Harry Kalas' death came to us yesterday, I started to think about all of the great play-by-play voices we've had in Philadelphia, and Harry is at the top of the list. Not only the top of the list here, but in baseball. What I have found, in addition to the games, is how average the other teams play-by-play guys are. The one exception I've found is stumbling across Vin Scully's voice on the Dodgers' broadcast. Otherwise, they're just guys talking about the game.
Harry was more than that. When he was partnered with Rich Ashburn, they were the Bob and Ray of baseball. Best friends watching the game together and it just happened to be going out over the air. Richie died in 1997, and for me, the games have never been the same. Harry carried on, but his partner was gone and they never found a replacement for the easy banter that he and Whitey shared.
Baseball is time-consuming, and having someone comfortable to listen to passes the time easier. They make a three-hour game seem like thirty minutes. That's what Harry did.
I suppose I don't have anything insightful or particularly fascinating to relay about Harry Kalas other than a little bit of Phillies baseball died yesterday too. Thankfully, he saw his best friend go into the Baseball Hall of Fame, got into the Hall of Fame himself and broadcast a Phillies World Series win. That's a pretty good life, I'd guess.
All of us are a little better off for being able to share it with Harry.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What a weekend

I had a ticket to the Orioles game on Saturday. The weather forecasters made it sound like the rain would stop mid-morning, allowing me to drive there in time for a rain-free day in Baltimore. In reality (something the forecasters are oblivious to) it rained until 3 in the afternoon, so I stayed home and watched the game on my $40 MLB cable package. In between, I switched over to the Masters tournament coverage on CBS.
I've never seen network broadcasters openly rooting for someone like I saw them rooting for Tiger Woods at this week's Masters golf tournament. Every shot he makes or misses is a major event with these guys. I'm guessing (correctly) that Kenny Perry and Chad Johnson don't make for big viewer ratings on Sunday, so Tiger being part of the event is a big deal to them. But, don't make it so obvious, OK guys? We know the TV ratings are nice, but you don't have to be cheerleaders. If they rooted for Jim Fuyrk so intensely, I'd have to think about it, but I'm guessing that Tiger's ratings numbers would make a case for Sunday viewers.
Meanwhile, the people at Yahoo (and Microsoft) have somehow come up with what they call Internet Explorer 8 that is supposed to be "optimized for Yahoo." In the three days since I've downloaded it, I've been kicked out of Blogger and Yahoo ten times. I'm thinking that maybe the programmers have taken some time off, or don't know what optimized means.
Then, I stayed tuned for 60 Minutes, which was supposed to ground me. Instead, it irritated me further, which is the opposite of grounding. First, there was the story of the gun nuts (sorry, but I can't think of a more flattering portrayal) who are locked in that 16th Century thinking that the second amendment somehow guarantees their freedom as Americans.
We are treated to a lot of thinking that immortalizes our forefathers as forward thinkers who had our best interests at heart. In the case of the second amendment, they were rather short-sighted. They thought that the right to bear arms was as timely as their life, but in reality it was not. We no longer require militia to guard our homes, so the right to bear arms is as outdated as the amendment. Gun nuts (there's that term again) however, see it as their birthright, and they think that arming citizens would prevent gun-related catastrophes like the Virginia Tech shootings because students would have guns. That's the sort of thinking that makes my head hurt. There was an entire 20-minute segment of the program devoted to that nonsense.
My head still hurts.